With Russell Westbrook expressing his interest in a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets should be bidders. How? Let’s look.
The Houston Rockets have been immersed in free agency for the past two weeks and nothing much has happened on their front. With the exception of the re-signing Austin Rivers, Danuel House and Gerald Green, there hasn’t been much of splash on the Houston Rockets‘ front.
I’ve written about free agents Marcus Morris and JaVale McGee both being a terrific fit for the team — they’ve also been rumored to have met with the team already — yet neither of the two has signed with the Houston Rockets.
The Houston Rockets already have $131.3 million committed to salaries this season which puts them well over the $109 million salary cap and they’re just $700K shy of going over the luxury tax line.
Their options are quite limited in signing players outright but they can certainly take advantage of a $9.2 million mid-level exception to sign a player that would fit the mold of this team. It would be prudent if they use it on multiple players to get the best bang for their buck but if they see someone that’s worth the majority of the money allotted that won’t count toward the cap, it’s possible that they will pull the trigger.
I think Morris would be worth it because of this scoring/rebounding capabilities as well as his defense and three-point shooting. But if the Houston Rockets made an offer that he couldn’t refuse, he would be here and yet he remains a free agent.
But while this is going on, Kawhi Leonard has single-handily created a wave of movement of players in this free agency period. He agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and he coaxed Paul George to play alongside him, making the Clips immediate favorites to win the NBA title.
Although we thought that George was still going to make things work between him and Russell Westbrook, it appears that he’d rather play with someone that has championship-level experience.
It’s absolutely amazing how the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to pull off a trade with the Clips when George has three seasons left on a four-year, $137 million deal that he signed just this past offseason.
Moves like these would be unheard of in yesterday’s NBA. The players are wielding more power in terms of where they want to play and I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing. However, it’s going to really hurt the smaller media markets like OKC because players are going to want to take their services to where their brand will get the most exposure.
Luckily, that would be the least of worries for Houston Rockets fans as this city is a Top 10 media market and the main thing free agents would have to worry about is if they could tolerate playing alongside James Harden and/or Chris Paul.
That’s a tough decision and I think it’s causing many free agents to think twice before signing here. I’m positive that these two fellas are quite respected in the NBA but it’s a different story when one is asked to be teammates with them.
I don’t think commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA brass is going to let it get to that point because all components need to be thriving in order for the league to be successful.
It’s also possible that the Thunder is going to go into rebuilding mode as it has been reported that Westbrook would like a trade out of OKC to somewhere else himself.
I know Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is already looking into this but the team seriously should trade for Westbrook.
Although I’m not a fan of the personality that he exudes, he’s still a terrific ballplayer and he’d keep butts in the seats if such a trade were executed.
A deal involving Westbrook would be massive, involving multiple teams and you can bet that CP3, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and likely P.J. Tucker would be the pieces that will be bumped off the chessboard.
Here’s the deal — I don’t Morey ever envisioned that he would have the opportunity to orchestrate yet another groundbreaking trade to pair Harden and Westbrook together since he initiated the trade that has defined his career back in 2012 with Thunder GM Sam Presti.
I’m wary of a backcourt that involves two players that are ball-dominant but I think these two can play together. I don’t think there was any animosity between the two, it was simply that Harden felt that he was a star and Morey was able to rescue him out of OKC.
I took a look back at some lineup combinations from the 2011-12 season, Harden’s last with the Thunder and some of their most-used lineups was with Harden in the fold.
The lineup of Harden, Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins was the second most-used of the Thunder that season. They played a total of 408 minutes through 56 games together with a 110.7 offensive rating and a 105.1 defensive rating. The assist-to-turnover ratio was on the low-end (1.12) and their PACE held at 94.9 possessions per game.
I think it can happen but the Houston Rockets have to do something or else they’ll have to bring
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this same team back for 2019-20 and I don’t think that’s something Rockets‘ owner Tilman Fertitta prefers.
Westbrook won’t be cheap as he just recently signed a five-year, $207 million super-max deal last offseason as well. He will earn $38.5M in 2019-20, $41.4M in 2020-21, $44.2M in 2021-22 and a whopping $47.1M in 2022-23, the final season of his contract.
That’s why CP3 would have to be moved in such a deal because it’s just not feasible for the Houston Rockets to be able to afford three max contracts and be able to backfill the rest of the roster efficiently.
It’s going to be tough to pull such a notion off but if anybody can do so, Morey can but we’ll have to keep an eye out. This still feels like a Hail Mary-move to the other free agency news but I’d be intrigued to see how this works.
Let’s go, Morey!
Westbrook, 30, averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists with a shooting line of .428/.290/.656 through 73 games last season.